18.04.2011 - 21.04.2011 32 °C
So following on from the last blog, due to my hours spent on the beach, I have realised that there is one big positive to not speaking Portuguese- the locals do not speak English. Therefore when they try and sell me hats/prawns/bikinis etc. saying no thank you actually makes them leave me alone straight away. A few times I have had to resort to the tiny bit of Spanish that I know however then I am an English person trying to speak Spanish in a slightly, no lets be honest, very French accent in a country where they speak Portuguese. I try!
So it´s been an incredibly busy last few days, exploring Ipanema, Leblon, Botafogo and Urca- plus a few others. Although Copacabana is more famous Ipanema is a far nicer beach, cleaner and prettier and full of beautiful people putting me to shame. Spending so much time on the beaches with people who seem to find normal bikinis unacceptably large, and must opt for the thong, has really given me a great insight into how many different bums there are out there. Wobbly, dimpled or simpy perfect I have seen many that I would like to swap with, but then many that I really would not. The waves are scarily large along the beach and very unpredictable. When you are least expecting it a wave will come around 5 meters further onto the beach than it had done previously and yes I was caught out. I managed to grab onto my bag while sunbathing and my camera survived but I did not appreciate being covered in a layer of sand.
I went to the church near the hostel to celebrate Palm Sunday and it was great to see how alive the Catholic Church can be if it puts its mind to it. The palms were not dried but whole palm leaves and by my estimation there were around 500 people squeezed in. As with a lot of church services you can follow whats going on without understanding the language but I wish I could have understood the sermon. The priest got so into it, jumping, thrashing his arms around and shouting- maybe it was more fun to guess what he was saying rather than actually know. It was a lovely touch that everyone in the church held hands for the Our Father, all 497 of them it seemed, apart from me and the two over 60 men standing either side of me. I put my palm leaf down and got my hands ready but was rejected after some awkward eye contact with them. They obviously thought better of it.
Santa Teresa is a beautiful area, so arty with colonial style buildings, and leads up to Christ the Redeemer. Yes it is extremely touristy but what do you expect for a site so famous. It was still incredible to be up there with the statue towering over you and the clouds cleared for the pictures. The views were equally as good up the Sugar Loaf, accessed by Cable Car. The area was so pretty that I went back today to walk the Trilha Claudio Coutinho (Trail) around and up the Sugar Loaf. It was so exciting to just walk past a couple of wild Sagui monkeys staring at me, I guess the bonus of walking by myself is not scaring the wildlife away. I can´t say as much for the view at the steps in Lapa, created from tiles from all over the world, as an old woman squatted in front of me and had a pee- the authentic experience.
I experienced the Brazilians love of football on Sunday when I watched Fluminense V Nova Iguacu. They really know how to keep the fans off the pitch, armed police with massive batons and loads of angry looking German Shepherds. The atmosphere was really positive with continuous music being played and even a bit of dancing.
I have so far only had one problem with public transport- underestimating how big the circle was in the circular route for Copacabana by bus. It was also not clear that they stop part way through this circle to have a break and therefore seemed surprised when I popped my head up from the back of the bus as they turned the lights off and went to have a drink. I guess I came travelling for all of the experiences and sitting on a dark bus in Rio by myself can now be ticked. The bus then carried on and dropped me off right where I expected so I wasn´t completely wrong.
Right Samba time, goodnight x